I think a lot of my motivation for listening to The Beauty of Innuendos was a desire to learn what on Earth the composer, Frank Felice, meant by “consonant adiatonicism”. I’m still not sure I really know. In any event there’s some enjoyable music on the record though I did find it a bit of a mixed bag.
There are four “song cycles” on the record. The first is Four Songs of Jennifer Haines which sets four texts about the poet’s break up with her (female) lover in the wastes of Montana, thus creating a new genre of High Plains lesbian break up song. I wasn’t much enamoured of this piece. It’s workmanlike but neither the texts nor the melodic, largely tonal setting really did it for me.
Yesterday’s RBA concert was an intriguing mix of music and poetry presented by soprano Zi Xin Emily Lapin (soprano), Jialiang Zhu (piano) and Kathryn Knowles (polymath with her poet on). It was a carefully curated programme and it featured surtitles throughout (major bonus points for that).
Oliver Mears’ production of Verdi’s Rigoletto recorded at Covent Garden in 2021 looks and feels like the work of a British theatre director. There’s nothing particularly weird about it. The Personenregie is careful and precise and the emphasis is on text and story telling. The opera house element perhaps comes into play in the rather impressive visuals including an extremely dramatic storm scene.
Silent Tears: The Last Yiddish Tango is a CD of songs based on the recollections of Holocaust survivors. Some of the songs deal with events during the Holocaust and others with the trauma of survivors. There are two main sources for the lyrics. One is the Baycrest Holocaust Surviviors Poetry Project facilitated by Dr. Paula David. The poems produced during that process were published in 1995 and adapted for this project. Other songs are based on the writings of Holocaust survivor Molly Applebaum who escaped by being buried under a barn in a small wooden box. The English texts have been adapted for this project by Dan Rosenberg and translated into Yiddish, others were originally written in Polish and remain in that tongue.
Before watching the new recording of The Ring from Deutsche Oper Berlin I set out my expectations based on the bonus materials on the recording and my previous engagement with productions by Stefan Herheim. Fifteen hours or so of watching later how do they stand up?
If you have been following this saga from the beginning you have probably already concluded that Herheim’s approach is radical in some ways and very, very detail oriented. If anything, in Götterdämmerung, it gets denser and more complex with some of the central production features used in somewhat different ways. It’s also spectacular. Not least because of the contributions of lighting designer Ulrich Niepel and video designer Torge Møller. They were important contributors to the first three operas. Here they are even more crucial. This opera also has more going on across the full width of the stage more of the time so it’s actually much harder to film. So let’s get into it.
Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at the St. Lawrence Centre yesterday. It’s a revival of their 2018 production and I don’t think my opinion of the production has really changed. The jokes have been updated a bit; mostly to reflect the anticipated imprisonment of a certain former US president (I wish!). But basically the schtick is the same.
2022 was the year when live performance in Toronto rose from the dead. It almost didn’t happen though. It’s a bit weird to remember just how strangely 2022 started. The theatres and concert halls had reopened in late 2021 and it looked like “normality” was returning. Some venues had masking policies or vaccine mandates and there were some “50%” performances but my calendar was starting to look something like pre plague. Then the government lost its marbles. Two weeks after a spike in COVID cases and at a point where all the indicators were actually heading south at the speed of a Messerschmidt in a power dive they closed everything down again. And although the shutdown was brief it was extremely disruptive causing all manner of cancellation and rescheduling. But get going again we did eventually and here’s a summary of the best things that came my way in 2022. Continue reading →
So continuing our look at Wagner’s Ring at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, directed by Stefan Herheim, we move on to Siegfried. I think it’s fair to say that all the elements referred to in my introductory post are present in Siegfried with some more thrown in for good measure. Let’s look at it act by act.